The photos kept pouring in, and by the time the deadline for submissions arrived, the good folks at UNC’s Center for Global Initiatives, Study Abroad, and UNC Global had received more than 600 entries for their thirteenth annual photo competition—more photos from UNC students, alumni, professors, and staff than in any of the competition’s previous years.

Then the competition cosponsors teamed up with photojournalism professors, art professors, and photographers unaffiliated with the university to choose winners. What makes for a really good photograph differs depending on whether you’re a journalist, an artist, or an interested nonexpert. But the judges came to some conclusions, winners were chosen, and many of the most intriguing images are now featured in a photo exhibit at UNC’s FedEx Global Education Center.

The six winning images and twelve others are also featured in the Center for Global Initiatives 2013 Calendar, which took on the university-wide theme of Water in our World.

According to CGI senior program officer Beth Kutchma, who produces the calendar with her colleague Tripp Tuttle, the main purpose of the photo competition and calendar has always been to showcase what UNC is doing globally. “Over the last several years, we can see how much globally focused research has grown at Carolina, and we can see the growing diversity of the places where the photos were taken,” Kutchma says.

The judges were partial to images that weren’t just visually striking, but told a story. In the above slideshow, each photo is accompanied by an extended caption written by the photographer. And that’s where the extent of Carolina’s reach in the world becomes evident. Students and faculty from dozens of majors and departments submitted photographs from hundreds of locations. Most photographers mention why the image, to them, was worth capturing with a camera. And most of them give clues to why they were abroad. It wasn’t to take pretty photographs. Kutchma and her team of judges knew this, which is why the images they chose to feature delve deeper than even a thousand words could capture.

The Center for Global Initiatives, which partnered with UNC’s Water Institute to produce the 2013 calendar, is celebrating its twentieth year as a Department of Education Title VI Resrouce Center and is now one of the department’s National Resource Centers. Study Abroad, in the College of Arts and Sciences, offers more than 320 programs in 71 countries. The goal of UNC Global is to infuse a global dimension throughout Carolina’s teaching, research, and service activities.

The photo exhibit opening reception and awards presentation will be held at the FedEx Global Education Center on January 30 at 6:00 p.m., and will include a lecture by Ken Harper, an award-winning designer, photojournalist, and media educator who directs Together Liberia, a digital news agency that brings together universities and leading Liberian media to empower Liberians to speak for themselves.